Online mentoring can mean different things to different people. Most of the time when we talk about “online mentoring,” we’re referring to our online mentoring software: MentoringComplete.
Today, however, we’re going to talk about online mentoring in a different context: when a mentor and mentoree work together virtually or “online.”
In the past, we haven’t recommended this sort of mentoring since a lot can be lost (e.g. nonverbal gestures) if the mentor and mentoree aren’t physically together in the same space.
But thanks to technology like Skype, people can now “meet” face to face. And since many organizations have a workforce that’s spread out over different locations, online mentoring has become an increasingly popular option.
Here are five tips to help make online mentoring as effective as possible.
1. Don’t skip the video conferencing.
As we mentioned above, it’s important that the mentor and mentoree have face time. Eye contact, nonverbal gestures, and so forth serve as cues to both parties. If you participate in online mentoring, make sure your meetings use technology that allows you to see one another.
2. Prepare like you would for an in-person meeting.
One of the issues we’ve always had with online mentoring is that complacency can set in since meeting online tends to feel a bit more casual. This is why you must approach every meeting—whether it’s video, phone, or instant message—as if it’s a formal meeting you’d have with a client.
Both sides should come prepared. A good rule of thumb: the mentoree should send a brief agenda prior to the meeting. This act alone can help set the tone (and it’s a good thing to do whether you’re meeting in person or via technology like Skype).
3. Make sure your colleagues/coworkers understand what you’re doing.
If someone walks by your office and sees you Skyping or Facetiming (and you’re acting a bit more relaxed than you might be with a client), it could be easy for them to assume the meeting isn’t important.
Either alert coworkers that this meeting is sacred and that you shouldn’t be disturbed, or if you feel uncomfortable discussing the fact you’re in a mentoring relationship, close your office door or seek out a quiet, private space where you can connect with your mentor/mentoree in peace.
4. Check in with your mentoring program manager.
If you’re part of a formal mentoring program—even if the mentoring itself happens online—you should still have a mentoring program manager (MPM). Connect with your MPM. Respond to the MPM’s emails, calls, and so forth. And, of course, alert the MPM about any issues that come up.
5. Don’t end meetings early.
It’s easy when you’re meeting virtually to end meetings early. Resist the temptation and stick to the allotted time. If you leave one meeting early, it’s easier for it to happen during the next one and the next and suddenly complacency sets in.